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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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Gregg

Britain will continue retain an independent nuclear deterrent without the renewal of Trident at this time. The White Paper is a rushed job and is being put forward now only because the Prime Minister is desperate to create some sort of legacy for himself. This is a destructive and narcissitic way to make policy, and there has been no attempt on the government's part to take account of the country's strategic needs or its international commitments, or to analyse the likely cost and benefit of ushering through renewal now.

Tobias Peters

What complete nonsense you talk Stan!

I would prefer the government to take its decisions based on convincing moral arguments, rather than a manifesto pledge, which is, like Trident itself, a relic of the Cold War.

Representative democracy relies on more than manifestos - governments need flexibility to accept persuasive arguments when they arise. Elected politicians are representatives, and not - as any first year politics student knows - delegates.

Anyway, I don't think retaining Trident could really be described as a central manifesto commitment. Are you really saying that even a tiny proportion of British voters had nuclear weapons on their mind when voting last year? Of course not. And why not? Because nuclear weapons are no longer relevant, or necessary.

By contrast, I'm sure many thousands of students voted Labour in 2001 based on their manifesto 'commitment' not to introduce top-up fees ...

It seems to me that you're first priority is to have a pop at 'placard-waving lefties'. Shouldn't you be concentrating your ire on, say, BAE Systems for corruptly selling war planes to lovely regimes like Saudi Arabia? Whatever their faults, the placard-wavers, after all, are advocating PEACE. A laudable (if unfashionable) aim, wouldn't you say?

James Adamson

Gregg, there is absolutely no evidence for what you assert, and in fact plenty to the contrary. Have you read the White Paper? It's clearly not a "rushed job" - in fact there has obviously been a lot of preparation gone into it. The manifesto in 2005 said we would maintain the nuclear deterrent (page 88). The PM said last summer that this decision would be taken by Government by the end of the year; the Chancellor said likewise in September. This isn't something they've pulled out of a hat in a couple of days.

You say the only reason it's being put forward now is because "the Prime Minister is desperate to create some sort of legacy for himself"? How do you know? You don't know anything about his motivation, you can only guess at it and it doesn't sound like you've had the chance to ask him so your assessment of his state of mind isn't much use to us.

And as actual evidence to the contrary, read the PM's forward; read page 6 of the Executive Summary; read the whole of section one but particularly page 9 para 1.2 and page 11 paras 1.8, 1.9, 1.10 and 1.11 - they all set out the reasons why a decision needs to be taken now. Do you really think a nuclear submarine can be whipped up in a couple of years? The maths is easy ... even after extending the life of the existing ones by 5 years, new submarines would be needed by 2024. They take 17 years to build. That means they need to start in 2007. The last submarines took 14 years to build - and that was after about a decade's worth of secret development work. It's the same timescale as other countries have needed - France and the US - when they've built submarines. Seems straightforward to me.

You also say "there has been no attempt on the government's part to take account of the country's strategic needs or its international commitments". Again, please read the White Paper. The whole of section 2, and section 3, and section 4, cover this. There are separate fact sheets on "disarmament and non-proliferation", on "international legal obligations", and on "the history of the UK's nuclear weapons programme".

And finally, you say there is no attempt "to analyse the likely cost and benefit of ushering through renewal now". Again you're wrong. Read section 5 of the White Paper. It sets out the options, solutions and costs. Section 6 deals with the industrial aspects. Annex B describes the options assessment process in some detail, and explains why they rejected each of the alternatives.

Gregg, if you oppose nuclear deterrence and support unilateral disarmament now then that is absolutely fine, but please just be honest enough to say that. It's be a bonus if you explained why. But what is utterly pointless is calling for a proper debate and then starting it by this mixture of cheap jibes, ascribing motives to people that you can have no possible idea about, and refusing to read what is in front of you. I wasn't entirely sure what I thought so I decided to read the White Paper and the Government's case before I leapt in to express an opinion. You want a debate? First read the White Paper properly, and then let's have a proper one, based on the facts.

Anyone else who wants to read it before making their minds up, it's at http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/PolicyStrategyandPlanning/DefenceWhitePaper2006Cm6994.htm. And before sounding off about what you think the Prime Minister thinks, Gregg, you might want to read what he actually said: at http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/Page10532.asp

Nick

I don't think anyone except the most hard core unilateralists are in favour of abandoning the nuclear deterrent in this Parliament, the period during which a manifesto pledge is usually considered valid, or so we were told during the top-up fees debates.

Nor, on my reading does the White Paper actually propose an immediate decision on replacing Trident itself.

The decision that it does say we need to make now is on replacing the Vanguard class nuclear submarine, which the White Paper proposes we do, with either three or four Astute class subs.

Seasider

Couldn't agree more Stan. Not only will the arguments of the fifties be rehashed but those of the eighties too, when Trident replaced Polaris and a youthful Joan Ruddock made her name.

I see there are several hundred comments on the Compass website against the implementation of this manifesto commitment. Personally I am all for the arguments that will rage in the short term. Anything which demonstrates that Labour is no longer in thrall to the left is good news for Gordon Brown and those who want to see Labour win a fourth term.

The left know that you can't get a better mandate than a general election-winning manifesto, but since when did the left care what the majority think?

While they cosy up with the Church and the Lib Dems to agitate in Trafalgar Square or wherever against our nuclear deterrent, the majority are watching them on telly shaking their heads in disbelief at the spectacle.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared his opposition to the replacement of Trident, which is another good reason to support it in my view. No doubt he thinks the power of prayer is enough to keep in check those states which support terrorism. I don't.

Captain Spaulding

What nonsense from Stan Rosenthal. The proposal is to build new nuclear submarines 17 years from now - it is do with a weapon platform, not a weapon, and it has no bearing on manifesto commitments for this Parliament.

There is much pseudo-technical argument in the White Paper about this magical 17 year timescale, (as the paper itself says, Polaris took 14 years) which just happens to put the decision into period where Tony Blair is still in office.

British industry could surely manage to build the boats within 16 years or less – after all, the entire Manhattan project only took three. It would then be up to Gordon Brown or A.N.Other to make the decision. There are any number of more nuanced ways in which one could preserve national security without so blatantly taking a step in the wrong direction.

Ministers clearly don't feel they have "ownership" of this decision and their rambling answers and evasions don't make one feel confident.

It seems rather like the Iraq war all over again - people are going along with it for reasons of Party loyalty, not because they think that it’s the right thing to do.

An Atheist

I don't see why the right-wingers in this argument (Stan, Seasider) seem so angry, given that the government is giving them exactly what they want.

I'm forced to conclude that their contempt for people whose main concern is peace is born out of spite, or perhaps a robot-like impulsion to trot out the party line.

Rowan Williams, by the way, is one of the few figures in public life who can be relied upon to give deeply held, well considered opinions on the issues of the day. Most politicians and hacks are pygmies by comparison, frankly.

swatantra nandanwar

Scrap the programme. In the world of double bluff we're onto a loser. If an incident arises, the enemy know full well that Britain would not retaliate because it would not want to escalate the situation into a world wide conflagration. We are too good to strike back.

Seasider

Angry? I'm not angry. If Britain were to be left without a nuclear deterrent thanks to a minority of peaceniks and agitators I'd be angry, but there is no chance of that.

The fact that you call Stan and I "right wingers" tells me everything I need to know about your politics, and your praise for Rowan Williams will surprise more than a few Christians.

It is good that this issue is debated every thirty years or so. It is an issue which transcends party political boundaries, and allows us to see just how small the minority of anti-nuclear protesters is.

Graeme Kemp

Frankly, who cares if the Labour manifesto supported nuclear weapons? Isn't this a promise worth breaking?

It's as if the Labour manifesto contained a promise to bring back slavery! Since slavery - and nuclear weapons - are immoral, we should simply repent!

Nuclear weapons are immoral, not simply because of the high cost, but because thousands of civilians would die, if they were used. Why slaughter more people if we were ever attacked?

However, if nuclear weapons really do deter, then every country should have at least one! Once again, what a waste of money and resources, making the world a more dangerous place.

Ultimately, the causes of war (including nuclear war) are political. Democracies tend not to fight other democracies. Since dictatorships such as Iran or North Korea will not last for ever, we could spend money on new nuclear weapons only for the problem to vanish, when these regimes collapse - what happened in eastern Europe to communism, will eventually happen elsewhere.

We must not replace Trident!


An Ahteist

Hang on a minute Seasider, you were the one who first dismissed 'the left' as being wrong on this issue. So by definition you are on the right of the argument.

As polls clearly show, it is not just a minority of far-left 'peacenicks' who oppose the renewal of Trident, is it?

Patrick Wintour from the Guardian on 17 Nov:

'Wider public opinion, according to the latest polls, narrowly supports retention of a deterrent, but this support in some polls turns into overall opposition if voters are told the cost is likely to be £25bn, or the equivalent of building 1,000 new schools.'

Seasider

Atheist, being on the wrong side of an argument with a bunch of lefties does not mean I am a "right-winger". It means I am sane.

With regard to your point about the poll Patrick Wintour loosely quotes, you draw attention to one of the worst examples of a leading question I have ever seen. If people had been told the cost was likely to be £25bn, or less than a third of the NHS budget, they might not have been quite so horrified.

Either way, the pollster concerned clearly designed a question to elicit a certain response. It's not exactly rocket science, and it's not credible, reputable polling either.

Steve Brown

Dear o dear. As far as intellectual justifications go, saying the Labour Party has to honour its manifesto commitment (a bizarre idea if you think about it)to do something stupid is just rank. I have to shoot my next door neighbour, because I promised I would. So that's ok then.

When I read about this argument on another site, I thought it was a joke...but in a way it is. But not a lot of people are laughing. Apart from Blair and Bush I guess.

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